Pakistan over the years have been famous to produce fast bowlers who have captivated the world. There has been a overwhelming thought that India produced the batsmen and the Pakistani the bowlers. It is not to say that Pakistan haven’t produced batsmen of repute. Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar, Younis Khan, Inzamam ul Haq and Mohammad Yousuf being a few. Babar Azam though is different as he represents a hope for many youngsters to have a role model and create a generation of youngsters who want to be batsmen of repute.
The innings of difference –
It was the end of day 1 and Pakistan had lost their first 2 wickets and lost both their openers with the score reading 21. In the middle were the two most experienced batters in Azhar Ali and Azam. The next day, Sri Lankan bowlers ran riot as they picked 5 wickets for further 64 runs. At that point the visitors still were in deficit by 137 runs on a pitch which is known to aid spinners.
Playing sensibly around the tail –
Azam took control of the situation and put his head down, he first got the support of Yasir Shah. The veteran leg spinner is known to be a dour customer with the bat and has a test century. The duo added 27 runs at nearly 2 runs per over, before Shah was out for 18 off 56 balls. Hasan Ali came out swinging and that’s the only way he knows to bat and scored 17 off 21 balls with 2 sixes. Ali and Azam added 36 runs in nearly 8 overs before the stand was broken by Ramesh Mendis.
The last wicket heroics –
When Naseem Shah came out to bat at 11, the Pakistani side was still trailing by 74 runs and by the time Azam was out the Sri Lankan lead was mere 70. Naseem Shah isn’t known for his batting prowess much. The fast bowler was guarded and shielded by his captain for most of the deliveries. In partnership which faced 185 balls, Shah faced 52 off those.
Scoring a memorable century –
Amidst all this, Azam stood like a rock and was hitting the bad balls for boundaries and taking singles and twos. There was massive applause as he got to his 7th test ton and helped Pakistan reach 218 before falling to Maheesh Theekshana for 119. That was more than 50% of what Pakistan had scored.
Scoring a 50 in almost perfect chase –
Galle has never seen a pitch so docile and so flat by the time the 5th day rolled through or was it the Pakistani batters who made it look that way? Pakistan were set 342 to win the test match. The openers gave the team a sedate start before Imam Ul Haq and Azhar Ali were out with the score reading 104 with 238 runs more needed for a win. That’s when Azam joined forces with Shafique to add 101 runs in 238 balls. The partnership might have looked slow, but it knocked the stuffing out of Sri Lanka.
From a flamboyant ODI batter to dour test stonewaller –
If you have to look at the change in Azam’s test fortunes all you have to do is cast your mind back to the Karachi test versus Australia. The visitors scored a massive 556 in the 1st innings and bowled out Pakistan for 148. Armed with a lead of 408, Australia batted again and declared at 97 for 2 to set Pakistan a target of 506 to win. Again walking in at 21 for 2, Azam first added 185 with Shafique who scored 96 and 115 runs with Mohammad Rizwan who went onto make a century himself.
196 runs of pure genius –
The national stadium in Karachi was buzzing, as Azam and Rizwan had put Pakistan in a position where they cannot lose. During the post tea session, there were talks of a world record chase at hand. With the score reading 392 and Azam having scored half of it, there was hush in Karachi. It was because Labuschagne had pouched an important of the Pakistan skipper to land a huge dent. All the Australian players converged to wish him on his innings. Azam that day had scored 196 runs from 425 balls with 21 fours and a six.
Test cricket they say is a dying sport, with the amount of T20 cricket, but with the new generation batsmen now learning to defend and build an innings, players like Babar Azam can lead a whole new generation to love and respect test cricket even more.
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